Sworn To Raise: Courtlight #1
Sworn to Raise is the story of Ciardis, a cleaning girl who is noticed by a member of a group known as the Companions Guild. Despite being from the equivelant of the boon-docks, her sponsor, Serena, takes her in and prepares her to be a Companion (more on this in a bit). During the course of the Companion training it is discovered that Ciardis posses what was thought to be a lost talent – the ability to magnify other magic users abilities. This makes her a much more desirable Companion and also introduces some of the conflict when the Prince Heir takes notice of her. More complexity is brought on by some intrigue in the Court and some mysterious hints of what might have happened to the rest of Ciardis’ actual family (the Weathervanes) as well as Ciardis simply trying to learn how to use her powers.
The book is interesting. It has a basic semi-medieval fantasy flair to it – there are guilds and armor and swords. The usual starter set for fantasy fiction. Edun, however, decides to flesh it out a bit more and play with the typical rules and arrangements. For starters, Companions here are not simply rentable prostitutes. They are fairly close to a Firefly style Companion, but have a bit more of an important role. For one thing, they can be taken on to manage estates and power. For another, the Guild re-enforces the contracts and protects its members and interests. The Companions share power with the individual they gain on the ‘Hunt.’ The more desirable a Companion, the more powerful the person seeking them (in general).
Similarly, the magic system is given a bit more detail here than a simple ‘say and spell’ style system. People still work as, essentially, Green Lantern batteries – your will and strength determine how powerful you are and how long you can cast. However, magic is somewhat inherited and limited. Some people can influence smells, others can influence memory recall, still others can influence heat. Ciardis, with her ability to amplify others abilitieis, is extremely useful AND powerful, making her both unique and valuable. The author is clearly setting up a world in this book and trying to lay some ground rules for later. There’s also a sort of magical ‘limbo’ world that is exposed and discussed, but is still kind of confusing for me but it is important to the plot.
The story itself is fairly basic, but moves a long at a good clip. A lot of the secondary characters are relegated to quick and easy characterizations with little development. Even Ciardis, the character whom we spent the most time with, is a bit under-developed. Some of the decisions she makes are reasonable given what we know about her and what she has explained either through personal dialogue or reflection. Some of her decisions, however, seem awfully plot convenient or forced. Edun does an excellent job world-building and rules lawyering, but it feels like the characters got the short end of the stick as far as development goes. While Ciardis has a lot going for her, I just don’t feel like there is a lot there yet.
There is a lot set up, but it’s going to take time to get it out and to make her feel more like a full person instead of about 7/10ths of one.
The story and its pacing make up for this, for the most part, keeping the reader entertained while exploring the world the Edun has developed. There’s just enough breathing room between actions sequences to let you process and examine what is going on without feeling rushed or bored – a tricky balance to find. That kind of balance makes this story fun and relaxing to read, which is a good thing.
On the whole, Sworn to Raise is a good story with some very strong points in its world development and pacing and a bit of a weakness in its characters. This is the start of the series and I am interested to see how the rest of the books pan out with the world-building so thoroughly established in this book.
Total rating: 4.2/5